I was sitting in my apartment the day after my grad school department’s Christmas Party crying. I could tell you why, but I’d rather not explore that topic because it hurts too much. What I will say is that in that moment, the depression that had controlled my life had hit its newest high. I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t know how I would, but I knew that it had to happen.
I eventually wrote a suicide note. I will share its contents one day, but for now, let’s just say it was my rock bottom. I couldn’t stop feeling like nothing would get better, and my life was a consistent reminder that it wouldn’t.
But I text my friend Joe, and I was unfortunately intruding on his day, but he still came over to my apartment to walk with me and talk with me in hopes of calming me down. For the most part, he did, but I still couldn’t shake the reality that I no longer wanted to be here in this world.
I met with my therapist and psychiatrist a few days later, and through an increase in my medication and some more honesty about my current circumstances, I felt better. I didn’t feel perfect, but I felt better. For the first time in a long time, I had a clear mind. I was able to see my struggles for what they were, and I was able to come to some new revelations.
These are the five revelations that depression has lead me to:
When my friend Joe arrived at my apartment building on the day I considered killing myself, he walked in and said, “Let’s go for a walk.” So we did. We walked for about an hour around my block and just talked about things, and he helped me.
What he taught me, and something I should have realized much sooner, was that when you’re feeling sad or lonely or down on yourself, you have to get up and do something. Sitting alone sulking is not going to change your feelings; it’s only going to magnify them. So distract yourself. Go on walks, listen to music, call a friend… do anything that’s going to take your mind off your problems and bring you closer to happiness.
It’s also important to know that doing something that brings you closer to happiness one day may not bring you happiness the next. We are ever changing beings. Things that make us happy one day may not make us happy the next. At first, the only thing that distracted me from depression was listening to Tori Kelly and writing about my feelings, but now, her music and my writing consistently remind me of my depression (which makes this post extremely difficult to write). So I adapted and changed; now, whenever I’m sad, I grab my laptop, head to my favorite bar and start working on my thesis.
It’s all about adaptation and following your own emotional current. So continually search for that temporary happiness, and maybe one day, it will become a never-ending source.
Comparisons are unfair.
When I sat in my most recent therapy session, I was telling my therapist all about my friends and how they manage to keep their lives together, and how I can’t help but feel that my problems are arbitrary, which then made me feel worse because I felt like the things I was going through were unjustified.
The more I talked about how I felt, the more my therapist and I realized that I’m constantly comparing myself to those around me, and it was then that she helped me realize that comparisons rarely serve any purpose; they are often unfair to the person doing the comparing (unless that person is a narcissistic asshole).
Whenever we compare ourselves to the people around us, we are comparing ourselves to the idealized version that they choose to present to the world, whether that is through social media or in person. We’re conditioned to hide our problems in hopes that they will disappear, and even if they don’t, a huge stigma surrounds sharing our emotions openly.
So when you compare yourself to another person, keep in mind that you’re being unfair to yourself, and the comparison is extremely skewed. Just because you choose to be open about your emotions doesn’t mean others are ready for that… just be happy you’re strong enough to recognize your pain to try and be open about it.
Happiness is not a choice.
You hear it over and over. “Happiness is a choice,” and it may be, but how can you prove that? Is there scientific evidence that proves without a shadow of a doubt that you can wake up one day and choose to be happy? Because if it were that easy, don’t you think those of us suffering with depression and anxiety and other mental health issues would choose to be happy?
I not only despise that saying, but I also don’t believe it. Saying that happiness is a choice is the equivalent to saying that sadness is a choice as well, and contrary to that notion, I do not choose to have these negative thoughts on a reoccurring basis. Ironically, the same people saying that happiness, an emotion, is a choice are the same people saying you can’t help who you love, another emotion. Emotions aren’t that simple.
The belief that happiness is a choice may be true, but it’s true for people who can control their thoughts because they don’t have other things controlling them.
So to everyone who feels hopeless and unhappy because of uncontrollable circumstances, stop holding yourself accountable for your sadness; remind yourself that if you really had control, you wouldn’t be in this predicament. It’s okay to not be okay. And to everyone telling us that happiness is a choice, knock it off. Because for some, me included, it will never be that simple, and you’re only making us feel worse.
You can’t let triggers control you.
I was sitting in my living room, staring at my movie collection when suddenly I was transported back to a time when I was extremely depressed, staring at my friend’s record collection. It triggered the severe depression I felt that day, and I haven’t been able to look at my movie collection or my friend’s record collection since.
Triggers are everywhere, especially for those suffering with mental health issues. We can be sitting in the happiest of places, and the smallest thing will take us back. We’re reminded of something that completely destroys our current state of mind.
At first, I thought the answer to triggers was to completely erase them from your life. I got rid of tons of items that reminded me that I wasn’t okay, but as I started to get to the bare essentials of my life, I realized that I had lost so many great things to depression.
So I asked my therapist what to do, and she asked me what was triggering depression. So I told her one of the most recent things was seeing happy couples doing couple things. Whenever I see couples kissing or holding hands, it reminds me of just how alone I feel every day, but my therapist taught me all about the change in perspective. If I saw couples that were yelling at each other, that wouldn’t make me happy either. So instead of thinking about how alone I feel when I see happy couples, I was challenged to see the beauty in their displays of affection and just how lucky I am to be in a world where I can experience that same amount of love.
But she knew that wouldn’t be enough (and it still isn’t), so she gave me a seashell from her office, and told me to remember the state of content that I felt in that moment. Triggers aren’t just negative things; they can be positive too, and at some point I forgot that. So whenever I feel myself spiraling down, I grab my seashell. It brings me back to place of serenity, even if just for a moment.
The “old you” isn’t coming back.
When I first started dealing with the emotional issues that my depression caused, I listened to a new song from one of my favorite singer’s group, dumblonde. The song, entitled “take away,” became my personal anthem against all of the pain I experienced, and I would constantly sing the line, “Bring me back to who I was before.”
That line summed up my goal in my battle against depression. I wanted to go back to the person I used to be before I started having these depressing thoughts, and over time, I realized that he no longer existed. My mistake in thinking that wasn’t the simple reality… because it’s true. The “old me” no longer existed; however, my mistake was believing that reality was a bad thing.
I always thought that the answer to all of my problems was going back to a time when those problems didn’t exist, but what depression has recently brought to my attention in a good way is that who I used to be doesn’t exist anymore, and that’s okay. Instead of trying to focus on going back to a time when I was happy, I need to start focusing on moving forward to a time when I will be happy again. And though depression will always be a part of my life, I can learn how to control it, and this entire experience will make me a stronger person and someone who can help others going through the same thing.
I wish I could tell you that my newly found revelations have caused me to turn things around, but they haven’t. I still question the majority of my relationships every time a friend doesn’t respond to a text, I wonder why no one wants to hang out with me when I’m alone on a random night of the week, I still feel like I don’t belong here, and I’m constantly searching for a purpose that I believe doesn’t exist. That’s what depression has done to me… But for now, all I know is my story isn’t over.
I have a chance at a new beginning, and I’ll take it.